At death, a will goes through probate. Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring property pursuant to the terms of a will. The executor or personal representative named in the will is in charge of this process. Thus, the choice of an executor is an important one.
Probate simply means the process by which a will is determined to be the deceased’s final wish concerning the disposition of his property and the welfare of his loved ones. The term probate is also used in the larger sense of probating one’s estate. In this sense, probate means the process by which debts and expenses are paid, taxes are settled, and assets are gathered and distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Since probate can be an expensive and wasteful process, a good estate planner will consider alternative testamentary vehicles that are not subject to the probate process. Perhaps the most common of these is the living trust.